July 30, 2008

Climbing in Christ's Blood

Colorado's Sangre de Cristo range (literally translated 'Blood of Christ') is home to the Crestone group. Among other mountains, this group includes Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle.

Crestone Needle (left) and Crestone Peak (right)

The rock quality in the Crestones has a reputation for being some of the highest quality alpine rock in Colorado. Geologically, it is a conglomerate of the same formation as the rock found in Eldorado Canyon and the Flatirons near Boulder. For these and other reasons, Keith and I decided to head down there and attempt an uber classic climb on Crestone Needle known as the Ellingwood Ledges.

Ellingwood Ledges route in profile

After hiking in and camping near the base of the climb on Thursday night, we awoke the next morning in time to begin climbing at first light. We opted for a direct start which added about three pitches of 5th class climbing at the base of the route.

Keith leading the lower section

The initial section of climbing was followed by a significant stretch of 4th class scrambling on a series of the namesake ledges. We unroped for this section and cautiously worked our way to the next and final stretch of climbing.

Keith scrambling up the middle section

There were 4 other climbing parties on the route, one of which was ahead of us. We had a few rock missiles whiz past us as loose rocks were abundant on the ledges.

Looking up at the final pitches

In general, the routefinding was pretty straightforward and protection was sparse, except for when you needed it. Keith and I swapped leads on the four upper pitches, which landed us on the summit of Crestone Needle. The rock quality and aesthetic quality of the route met all my expectations, making it worthy of its reputation in my mind.

Looking down after passing the route's crux (5.7)

Our original plan was to traverse from the summit of Crestone Needle to Crestone Peak. Since the weather was looking like it would hold long enough for us to accomplish this, we began the traverse. Most parties rappel off the summit of the Needle and then begin traversing. Keith and I opted for an adventurous downclimb of an east-facing gully and subsequent traverse to get back to the traverse route.

Keith traversing below the Needle's summit

Getting off the Needle was the hardest part of the traverse from Needle to Peak. Once we got down to the standard traverse route, we were able to relax and enjoy the 3rd class scrambling that dominated the rest of the route to the summit of Crestone Peak.

Looking back at the Needle midway through the traverse

Continuing our loop and tour of the Crestones, we climbed down the opposite side of the Peak from which we approached. The descent wasn't too technical compared to what we had already done, and we hurried to beat the incoming weather.

Downclimbing the Northwest Couloir off of Crestone Peak

Ellingwood Ledges route in profile from the pass above our camp

Although we didn't make it back to the tent before the hail, rain, thunder and lightening began, we did make it off the mountain and down to a safe location before the squall attacked. This was one of the finest days in the Colorado mountains I've had yet.

The next day we slept in before a nice hike up Humboldt Peak, the third and final 14er of our trip. There wasn't much climbing to speak of on this hike, but the rewards came in the form of views of the Crestones and abundant wildlife.

Photo from part way up Humboldt Peak - Our route from the previous day basically follows a line straight up the middle of this photo

Not only did we see the standard alpine wildlife, but due to the time of year, we were fortunate enough to see the babies of most of the standard critters: ptarmigan and baby ptarmigan, marmots and baby marmots, pikas and baby pikas, sheep and lambs, chipmonks, and a porcupine.

Baby Marmot





We didn't see the sheep until we returned to our camp. We had returned from our hike and lied down in the alpine meadow next to our tent for a nap. After throwing several rocks at me to get me wake up, Keith finally succeeded and informed me that there was a sheep behind me. I turned around and there was a ewe, about 20 feet away, looking inquisitive. Shortly thereafter, three lambs and two more ewes showed up to join in the fun. We watched them and took several pictures over the next hour or two. They left the vicinity of our camp once they had eaten all the pee grass. Here are a couple videos.

July 28, 2008

Boulder Peak

Don't let the title fool you, this is not a post about Josh's climbing adventures. Boulder Peak is a local olympic distance triathlon, comprised of a 1500 meter swim, 42K bike, and 10K run. About 1600 people participated this year. I was slightly more apprehensive about this race than my last triathlon. Partly because of the longer distance and tougher course, but mostly because it seems everyone in Boulder is an extremely talented and dedicated endurance athlete.

The day started off with the first swim wave leaving at 6:40 am, but unfortunately I was in the last wave and did not start until 7:40. After sitting around for what seemed like forever, I eventually put on my wetsuit and immediately headed for the water, as it was already too hot out to stand around in neoprene. I did a quick swim warm-up and then stood with my fellow women 25-29 to watch the wave before us begin swimming. I had just begun to think maybe I had overestimated how insane people in Boulder are about triathlons, when I had an "oh-crap-what-am-I-getting-myself-into" moment. The two girls next to me were discussing their Kona training (Kona as in Ironman World Championships, as in not only do these girls do insanely long triathlons, but they are also do them really fast to qualify for a race that some people devote their whole lives to qualifying for). Luckily, I was soon distracted because it was time to line-up and start swimming.

The start was the usual cluster of kicking and grabbing. My goal was to find someone early to draft and stay with them. In most triathlons, it is illegal to draft on the bike (although people have been known to do it ... you know who you are ... Jake), however it is perfectly legal and a good strategy to draft in the swim. This is a little more complicated in Boulder Reservoir because the water is so murky. You can't see your hand 10 inches in front of you underwater, so of course you can't see anyone's feet, that is unless they are kicking you in the face. About 300 meters in, I found a girl with a strong enough kick that I could easily see where she was going by the bubbles trailing her feet. I had no idea how fast she was going, but she swam in a fairly straight line, so I figured by staying with her at least I didn't have to do any sighting to stay on course. It worked out well, as we soon started passing stragglers from the waves ahead of us and then people from our own wave. In the end, I had a much faster swim time than I could do on my own.

The swim start

I transitioned from the swim onto the bike and was ready for the crux of the race. This course is famous for the hill on Olde Stage Road that occurs about 6 miles into the bike. This hill has 600 feet of climbing in 2/3 of a mile, peaking out at a 15% grade. My weekly training rides on Flagstaff prepared me well and I cruised up the hill, past many people who were walking their bikes. Then came the steep downhill, where they impose a 35 MPH speed limit (checked by police with radar guns at the bottom of the hill) for safety reasons. Safety from other riders and safety from bears - three years ago someone hit a bear during this triathlon and about a month ago a cyclist hit a bear on this same road. Luckily, there weren't any bear sightings this day. The rest of the bike was rolling hills leading back to the reservoir.

Returning from the bike

The run was an out-and-back on the gravel roads around the reservoir. No one from my age group passed me after the swim, except one girl in the last mile of the run. I thought about staying with her, but I was feeling the effects of the heat (it peaked at 100 degrees later that day) and didn't have it in me, so I let her go. Since I was in the last wave, there were a lot of racers ahead of me, so I had no idea what place I was in the entire race. Turns out, if I had been one place better, I would have really been kicking myself for letting that one person go.

The final stretch to the finish

I am fairly happy with my race, especially as my first olympic distance. I did a pretty good job of staying hydrated and taking in calories without any stomach issues or cramping. My biggest issue came when I put a Clif Shot (energy gel) packet in my mouth to hold it as I ran my bike out of the transition and mounted it. I guess getting out of the transition was stressful, as I bit a hole in the wrapper. I didn't realize this until I had a gooey mess all over my hands and, therefore, all over my handlebars, aerobars, bike shorts, and I even found some on the back of my helmet later (I really can't explain that one). The only bike picture taken of me by the race photographers is me licking my hand ... don't think I will be purchasing that one.

The stats:
Time: 2:32:35
5/101 women 25-29
32/527 women overall

The pro triathletes started an hour after my wave and I finished in time to see them transition from the bike to the run. The pro's raced a different run course that was made of three loops, so we watched them run by us multiple times. The field was comprised of olympians, world champions ... you know, just your typical Boulder resident. The men's winner will represent the US at the upcoming olympics and I feel more inclined to watch the olympic triathlon now that I have seen him race in person.

July 27, 2008

Capitol Peak

All right. Even I'll admit that there is a repetitive nature to my recent posts. With that said, don't expect anything to change for at least a few more posts.

Last weekend I drove back out to the Elk Range to climb Capitol Peak. Capitol is a bit on the anomalous side as far as Colorado peaks go. The view from the north makes it appear to be a solid granite monolith, similar to something you'd see out in Yosemite valley. Upon closer inspection, the rock is more weathered than it appears from a distance and one is reminded that they are still in the Elk Range of Colorado.

Capitol Peak

My trip involved backpacking through fields of wildflowers for 7 miles on Friday night to a beautiful lake at the base of the mountain's daunting north face.

The beautiful Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

The lake and the peak

Beginning at 5am the next morning, I started up a variation of the standard route on the northeast ridge. I stayed on or very close to the ridge crest for about a mile before reaching the famous Knife Edge Ridge. All the guidebooks and trip reports I'd read really build this ridge up and make it sound like crossing it is an incredibly intense experience. Although the ridge does come to a point and form an unusually geometric edge, the drop off on either side is not as steep as I was lead to believe. Possibly due to my recent slacklining practice, I was able to comfortably walk these knife-edge stretches like a balance beam.

The final ridge to the summit as seen from Point K2

Amy getting ready to cross the knife edge (I'm in the background and stole this picture from her posting on the 14ers website. We were supposed to meet up the night before and climb together, but that didn't work out and I didn't find her until we were crossing the knife edge in opposite directions.)

I spent about a half hour on the summit, taking in the views of nearby Snowmass Peak and the more distant Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. I was able to descend, pack up my camp, hike out, and arrive back in Boulder by 4pm, in time to drink beer and play volleyball until it got dark.

July 22, 2008


I left for Oregon after being back in Colorado for 14 hours from Ohio. Not the best travel plans, but by far the cheapest flight option. And it allowed me to go to work for 7 hours, thus not missing another day.

The main purpose of my trip to Oregon was to see my new niece, Anna. Because I was busy with school and Ohio prior to this trip, I didn't do any planning for this trip, so I didn't spend anytime with old friends still in the area. Nonetheless, I had an excellent time. Not only did I get to bond with Anna and help my sister (those newborns are a lot of work!), but I also managed to get a few runs in on my favorite trails (Dans up Dimple and my "run-on-every-trail-loop" at Peavy) and do some relaxing. I even headed to the aquatic center to swim in a pool that I haven't been to since high school swim team 9 years ago.

Babies are much cuter than my rambling, so here are the photos:

The family made a trip to Silver Falls State Park. Here are the 4 generations of women represented.

Anna ready for her first hike.

Abbie, Mom, and Dad. Anna is already passed out (hence the limpness).

Mom, Dad, and I.

Abbie (and Anna) hiking.

Mom and Dad walking behind a falls.

Anna put on her "I love my auntie" onesie for me.

She likes to sleep on her side.

Getting in a 4th of July nap.

My grandma and Anna.

My dad and Anna. He likes to tell her stories about his friends and people he went to college with. I am sure I heard these as a baby and this may explain a lot about my personality.

Bundled up to go outside for my dad's fireworks display. We call this the smurf outfit. Anna slept through the fireworks, even the loud screeching ones at close range.

July 21, 2008


I am way behind on the blogging, so bear with me. Josh said he won't post about his adventures last weekend until I finish my blogs from 3 weeks ago.

In late June, I made my first, and possibly last, trip to Ohio. The purpose of the trip was to attend Brian, a recent MS grad from my lab, and Emily's wedding. Most of my lab friends made the trip, but Josh decided he had better things to do than visit Ohio. Plane tickets to Ohio are ridiculously expensive, so we made a long weekend out of it. I managed to not take a single picture the entire time I was there. Luckily, co-worker Jessica shared her photos.

We flew into Akron Friday and drove down to Columbus. As a positive for Ohio, I will say that it is very green. Our drive was through farmland that was very green and scenic. Being in Boulder, I miss green grass and trees. We arrived at our hotel in downtown Columbus in time to grab some dinner before heading to the post-rehearsal dinner festivities at a nearby bar.

Jessica, Brian, and Brooke Friday night.

The wedding was on Saturday evening. Unfortunately, it was an outdoor wedding and it rained most of the day. But after a 30 minute rain delay, the wedding started. Tony, a post-doc in my lab, officiated the wedding. Besides the rain, the ceremony was beautiful. Brian is known for his fashion sense, so it was no surprise that the groomsmen were in pink shirts.

The newly married couple.

Melanie, Brooke, Lisa, and I at the reception.

Saturday and Sunday we did a bit of touring around Columbus. Jessica and I went for runs each day, heading along the river one time and through the Ohio State University Campus the other. I don't typically run with Jessica because she is too fast, but Columbus is a bit sketchy and there is safety in numbers. Since leaving DC, I have forgotten how horrible it is to run in humidity.

This is my favorite thing we saw on our runs. It is a giant gavel fountain outside the supreme court building. Fitting, yet a little silly.

We also attended ComFest (short for Community Festival), which was a music/art festival. Sunday night we headed to the Ohio Theater, a historic landmark that shows old movies.

Ohio Theater where we saw Hitchcock's Notorious.

Monday we drove north to Sandusky. Our google map directions took us on some back roads for the 3 hour drive, so we got to see some new landscape. Unfortunately, this was quite a bit slower as we got stuck behind a horse and buggy - I guess that happens in Amish country. Sandusky is home to Cedar Point amusement park, known for having the most roller coasters. We spent the day going on rides and avoiding the rain.

Ryan and Tony on one of the older coasters.

Lake Erie and the Cedar Point skyline as we drove away.

We flew back to Denver on Tuesday morning. During my four day trip to Ohio, I got to see a lot of the state, enough so that I am not in any hurry to return.

July 13, 2008

Non-Talking Goat

Just before leaving the office on Friday to go climb some more mountains, I got a response to a partner request I posted on the 14ers.com website. I planned to do a moderately technical climb on Pyramid Peak on Saturday and thought it would be good to have a climbing partner.

I met up with Heather at the Maroon Lake Trailhead Friday night, and we began climbing at 0330 on Saturday. The climb was great all-around, but the highlight was the ever-so-friendly but mute goat.

Hey Goat

We encountered him on the way down (we climbed up the Northwest Ridge and descended the Northeast Ridge, which is why we didn't see him on the way up). He walked towards us for a while with inquisitiveness written all over his face. I know he wanted me to pet him, but my inner voice wouldn't let me. I had my super-zoom camera with me, but I couldn't use its potential as the goat was too close.

Another picture of the goat, still refusing to talk

As the goat was in the trail, and the complex and steep terrain was not conducive to going around him, we slowly chased it as we continued to descend. Eventually, he disappeared and reappeared behind us. At this point he had a look on his face that said, "Hey, where you guys going? You just got here. Don't you wanna play?"

The climb itself was a great class 4 scramble with interesting route finding and a couple of fun cruxes. I'm convinced our circumnavigation (up one ridge and down the other) was the best way to climb the peak.

Pyramid's 'irregular' summit

Pyramid from low down on the Southeast Ridge

On Sunday I drove to the next trailhead south, camped, and got up in the morning to hike up Castle and Conundrum Peaks. Heather went home, so I was on my own this day. Most of this area is covered with undesirable scree, so I climbed up the the only route that still held snow - the Conundrum Couloir. Only 600 feet in length, the couloir averages 47 degrees. I was there so early (0600) that it was still quite icy. Had I slipped, I probably would have ended up in the beautiful lake below. Come to think of it, something like this with warmer water would make a great amusement park ride!

Conundrum Peak, with the Conundrum Couloir in the center

I topped out on Conundrum at 0700 after a long approach and a short but fun climb up the couloir. I scrambled across the ridge connecting Conundrum to Castle, and descended the Northeast Ridge on Castle Peak, completing my second fantastic tour in the Elk Range in as many days.

Castle Peak from the top of Conundrum

July 09, 2008

Dad's Weekend

Similar to the OSU weekends of yesteryear, my dad came out from Oregon to visit for few days, as he typically does once a summer. Two years ago, we attempted to climb Mt. of the Holy Cross, one of Colorado's many 14,000 foot mountains. After two years of dwelling on the fact that he didn't make it to the top, he came back to prove himself.

The trip started with a couple of acclimatization hikes to about 12,000 feet. The first of these, on the 4th of July, involved Dad hiking up to the continental divide near Rollins Pass in the Indian Peaks while Andy, Dave, and I skied a couple of chutes in the cirque immediately northeast of Beacon Peak.

Beacon Peak, with one of our ski lines visible in the cirque

The first line we hiked up and then skied was probably the steepest and most committing line I've skied since Alaska.

Line 1 - Unnamed southeast facing chute north of Beacon Peak

We had a few minutes left before Andy needed to be back for some BBQ festivities, so we skied a mellower, shorter line on the flanks of Beacon Peak.

Line 2

Meanwhile, Dad was hiking up the next prominent ridge north of us to the continental divide (that's how we got the first picture shown above). He made it all the way to the top and was back down about the same time we finished up.

The next day, Dad was ready for some more acclimatization, this time with a bit more elevation gain. To accomplish this, we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike up Flattop Mountain. Being a Saturday on a holiday weekend, the park was packed and full of yahoos. After a solid elevation gain of 2800 vertical feet, we successfully made it to the top.

With two hikes under out belt in two days, we were running out of time in our 4-day weekend to climb the Mt. of the Holy Cross. So on day 3, we drove to the trailhead and backpacked up over Halfmoon Pass, down to East Cross Creek, and up the flanks of Holy Cross to about 11,000 feet.

Mt. of the Holy Cross

We had just enough time to set up the tent at 11,000 feet before the lightening, thunder, hail, and rain began. The rain continued through the night and was still coming down at 3:00 am when we rose to start hiking towards the summit, 3000 vertical feet above us.

Roughly half way up, the rain turned to snow. It was apparently just cold enough for the snow to stick to the rocks, turning every step into a potential slip. The rest of the way up, we were in a whiteout and could not see more than about 100 feet. We reached the summit at about 8:00 am. The visibility was so poor, we had to search out the summit register to convince ourselves we were at the top.

Dad holding the summit register

Father and Son on the Summit!

Yes, these pictures are from last weekend and there was 2 inches of fresh snow in the ground! We didn't stay on the summit long as there was nothing to see except clouds and we were cold. The trip down was slightly more treacherous than the way up as it was increasingly difficult to keep from slipping on the snow covered rocks.

Even the flowers were stymied by this July 7th snowstorm.

After descending about 500 feet from the summit, the clouds started to break and we could see glimpses of spectacular views in every direction the clouds allowed. Unfortunately, the peak we had just climbed remained at least partially shrouded for the entire descent.

Dad descending at about 13,500 feet, Holy Cross hiding in the background

It was truly awesome to see my dad work so hard to accomplish something that he was determined to do. We overcame some adverse weather conditions to be the only two people to summit that day. In fact, we didn't see anyone until we were at the top of Halfmoon Pass on our way back to the car.